Maintaining the human touch as AI takes hold

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Disruption caused by COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) by fast-tracking digitisation, as the world had to adjust to accommodate remote workforces, expand digital capabilities to support distribution and upgrade its online channels.

Market changes and technological advances that were expected to take years occurred in just months. Distribution became more digital, underwriting became more automated, and all other functions became more – and in some cases entirely – virtual.

In many ways, the insurance industry had already embraced technology to an incredible degree. If you insure your car in South Africa, there is a good chance that you use your car insurer’s app to monitor your driving habits and, ultimately, lower your premiums – given that you drive cautiously.

While few organisations heavily invested in AI during the pandemic, an increased emphasis on digital technologies and a greater willingness to embrace change will continue to reshape the insurance industry over the next decade, as AI allows us to automate activities like regulatory compliance or policy management.

On top of a fast-advancing global industry, we’ve witnessed more “born-in-tech” insurance providers in South Africa. They’re quick to react to changes in the market and customer behaviour, and this new generation of insurance increases the pressure on more traditional insurers to speed up cycle times and reduce expenses.

Many believe that the adoption of intelligent process automation is the solution to these challenges. Software like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has the potential to help insurers transform their business, better adjust to market changes and become more profitable by automating the mundane.

Overall, the potential for automation in the insurance industry is limitless. Automation is the lever that can help transform operations, radically improve employee satisfaction and elevate the customer journey. But, as automation tools and RPA become more readily accessible, it’s important to recognise both the benefits and the pitfalls of the technology.

Claims and billing are two more processes that we’ve seen many insurers start to automate. But months of isolation that made people more dependent have had a lasting effect, highlighting the need for human interaction. So, is choosing to automate two of the most pivotal points of a broker-policyholder relationship really improving the deeper human experience in the long run?

There is no doubt that technology will continue to play a leading role in transforming the insurance sector. But as insurers look to adapt to the future and guard against the threat presented by shiny new insurtechs, we mustn’t let the chasm between technology and a human touch become too deep.

People engage with apps, websites and self-service platforms every day, but the minute something goes wrong, they want to speak to another human. Forrester Consulting identifies the key tenets of good customer service as ease, effectiveness and positive emotion. And, while AI holds incredible potential to revolutionise customer service down the line, it currently lacks the human touch necessary to delight customers.

This is why, alongside widespread technical reskilling and upskilling to adjust to a faster, more digital, and data-driven business environment, insurers must also prioritise developing and deepening the “soft skills” that are so essential in serving people.

To keep pace and remain a leader in today’s marketplace, look for ways to drive efficiencies with new technology without removing the irreplaceable human element.

At Fulcrum Premium Finance, our brokers prioritise nurturing long-lasting relationships with our clients by tailoring solutions that make them happy. Get in touch with us today.

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